Pietro Filippo Scarlatti

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Pietro Filippo Scarlatti (January 5, 1679 - February 22, 1750) was an Italian composer, organist, and choirmaster who was a prominent member of the Italian Baroque School. Pietro Filippo Scarlatti's background as an organist and choirmaster created his knowledge of multicolored sonorities and harmonies along with the experience of contrasting voices which he used well in his operas. Such examples are men's and women's voices, high and low voices, and solo and chorus voices to create a true family of sound; it is through this structure of the family that one creates the true human spirit of music.


Pietro Filippo, the eldest of Alessandro Scarlatti's children and a brother of composer Domenico Scarlatti, began his musical career in 1705, as choirmaster of the cathedral of Urbino. Three years later, in 1708, his father brought him to Naples, where he became an organist at court. While in Naples, Scarlatti began working on operas.

Scarlatti's operas

His technique was to create very colorful orchestrations, expressive melodic lines, and varied harmonic textures over vibrant rhythms. His operas were so influential to many Italian operatic composers that Scarlatti formed and founded the Neapolitan School of Opera. The school promulgated an Italian taste in opera, which contained very simple yet attractive melodic lines, which were used as improvisational springboards for the solo vocalists, where many coloraturas numbered as popular singers. Thus, the featured singers, due to their elevated musical positions, appeared to become more important than the orchestra or chorus. A feature in the Italian operatic style was the use of the "da capo" style of aria. The "da capo" aria was fashionable in this late Baroque period and consists of an A-B-A form. Subsequent to the B section, the term da capo is written, which means "go back to the beginning." Other features were the use of an Italian overture, or sinfonia, which consisted of three sections in different tempi (fast-slow-fast), and the inclusion of two comic characters which were very important to the plot. In 1728, his opera Clitarco was premiered at Naples' Teatro San Bartolomeo. The score has since gone missing.

Scarlatti's other works

Other main works include three cantatas, a multitude of keyboard toccatas (one of which has been recorded by Luciano Sgrizzi), and more than 600 chamber cantatas which place these compositions at the highest level of this form of musical composition.


Pietro Filippo Scarlatti's operatic, chamber cantatas, and toccatas were very influential to many composers, such as George Frideric Handel, Johann Adolf Hasse, and Domenico Scarlatti. His unique styles in orchestration, harmonic texture, and melodic expression seemed like a bridge between the late Baroque period and the early Viennese School of the eighteenth century.


Pietro Filippo Scarlatti's legacy was in his chamber cantatas and operas. Although a cantata was originally a vocal composition, Scarlatti embellished the cantata to be similar to a church cantata, which was usually written for a chorus, vocal soloists, organ, and a small orchestra; however, Scarlatti condensed the cantata form to be smaller in vocal and instrumental size. In his operatic legacy, Scarlatti used the dramatic form to bring forth a set Italian style of opera which clearly influenced other composers and created the ending of an instrumental polyphonic period and the beginning of an emphasis of simple melodies and harmonies.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Jeppesen, Knud. La flora: arie & c. antiche italiane. Copenhagen: Hansen, 1949.
  • Sacchetti, Arturo. L'organo napoletano nel settecento composizioni da chiesa. Italy: Venetia, 1987.
  • Sgrizzi, Luciano, Pietro Filippo Scarlatti, Domenico Scarlatti, Domenico Zipolim, et al. S.I.: Nonesuch, 1966.


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